Introduction: How do you view the Ten Commandments? Would you say
that you can see a logical connection between the commandments and
the last time you saw police lights in the rear view mirror of your
car? Jesus didn’t help this problem when He explained that the
commandments against adultery and killing, included the more common
problems of lust and anger. How many people, when they hear of grace
are delighted because they think they no longer have to worry about
those pesky and inconvenient commandments? Much ink has been spilled
on the topic of the law and grace, but I think we will better
understand grace if we better understand the nature of the law. We
claim that if we are saved by grace, we will want to obey God. But,
that is not consistent with equating the commandments with feeling
like a police officer is about to arrest us! So, let’s take a
plunge into the Bible to better understand what it says about the

  1. God’s Law and Benefits

    1. Read Psalms 19:7. I can understand why the Holy Spirit
      would inspire David to say that God’s law is perfect. But,
      in what way does the law “revive the soul?”

      1. Can you imagine a police officer telling you, “the
        speed limit here is perfectly set – and the speed
        limit will make you happier!” (I love order and hate
        disorder. Where I work and where I live are in
        order, with the result that I’m rarely trying to find
        something. I understand that order improves my life.
        When people on a road have more than a 20 mph
        difference in their speed, it creates disorder. When
        the cars in front of me are stopping, and I have not
        noticed it, my wife is not happy.)

    2. Psalms 19:7 also tells us that the law makes stupid people
      wise, and the reason for this is that the law is
      trustworthy. None of this makes any sense on the surface.
      How would you explain it?

      1. When you are looking for advice, because you are not
        smart enough (or educated enough) to figure things
        out on your own, what kind of advice do you want?
        (Advice you can trust.)

      2. Why do you want trustworthy advice? (The whole
        problem is that you do not trust yourself to have the
        right solution. One thing that separates wise people
        from dumb people is that the wise people know what to
        do to live better. This text suggests that the law of
        God gives dumb people (Hebrew:”silly” or “foolish”
        people)advice they can trust to live better.)

    3. Read Psalms 19:8. We just mentioned how the law sometimes
      feels like the police. In what way does the law bring us
      joy? (The police officer pulls us over because we have
      violated the law. If we keep the law, we stay out of
      trouble. This is cause for joy.)

    4. Psalms 19:8 tells us that the law is like a flashlight.
      How is the law like a flashlight? (This goes back to
      making silly people wise. The law reveals secrets (or at
      least truth) about behavior. If we follow what the law
      says about right behavior, we will live smarter.)

      1. Did you ever feel that if you were smarter your life
        would be better? If so, why? (You would make better
        decisions that would improve the quality of your

      2. Think about the time when you felt most guilty. Did
        you feel bad because you violated the law, or because
        you messed up relationships with others? (We can see
        that this speaks directly to the quality of our

    5. Read Psalms 19:9-11. Is there a theme here about the law?
      (Yes! God’s law gives us great advice on how to live. If
      we follow it, it is better than having wealth – our life
      is sweeter. We are warned against things to avoid, and we
      are rewarded by doing what is right.)

  2. Benefits and Self-Denial

    1. When people tell us that if we are saved by grace we will
      obey the law because we love God, does that seem to be a
      totally honest statement? Is it the whole truth? (The
      Bible texts that we have been reading suggest that we keep
      the law because we trust God and we love ourselves!)

    2. Does the theme we have been developing trouble you? The
      Ten Commandments are a “self-help book” that anyone in
      their right mind would follow? Thus, keeping the
      commandments is easy because that is what we do to have a
      better life?

      1. Surely not all of God’s law involves a benefit to you
        and me, right? For example, Jesus says (Matthew
        22:37-40) that loving my neighbor as myself is a
        pillar of the law. My neighbor just backed over my
        bush and broke the trunk in half! Is some of the law
        just a pain in the neck? Let’s explore that next.

  3. The Sabbath and Self-Denial

    1. Read Exodus 20:8-11. If your employer gives you a paid
      holiday, do you complain? Has God given us a weekly
      holiday with this commandment?

      1. Who else has God given a holiday? (Our employees and
        our animals.)

        1. Is that good for you – to give your workers a
          weekly day off? (No. This is money out of my
          pocket. I could be earning from their work.)

    2. If the Ten Commandments are a bunch of self-help tips, how
      do we explain the Sabbath commandment giving our workers
      the day off?

      1. For that matter, how do we explain the commandments
        against killing, stealing, adultery, false testimony
        and coveting? (Can you see the theme here? God’s law
        does not permit unbridled self. You may like your
        neighbor’s car, house, wife, job, or income more than
        your own. But, you are not allowed to take it.
        Indeed, you are not allowed to even think about how
        you would prefer those things, for that is coveting.)

    3. Read Romans 7:7-9. What does this say about when our human
      nature is confronted by rules? (We are not satisfied with
      simply having a better life. We are not satisfied with
      simple self-improvement. We are satisfied when we are
      more improved than those around us. We want Sabbath off,
      but we do not want it off for our workers. If our neighbor
      has a better car, we want his, he can have our inferior

  4. The Sabbath and Human Nature

    1. Read Exodus 20:11 again. What is the reason for keeping
      the Sabbath – to have a holiday? (No. The Sabbath is
      blessed and holy because it reminds us that God is our

    2. Read Deuteronomy 5:15. What reason does this give for
      keeping the Sabbath? (That God redeemed the Jews from the
      slavery of Egypt.)

    3. Read Matthew 27:62-63 and Matthew 28:1-4. These verses
      make clear that Jesus spent the Sabbath in the grave and
      rose to life on the first day of the week (Sunday). Why
      do you think He did this? (We see here that the Sabbath is
      intended to remind us not only that Jesus is our Creator,
      but that He redeemed us from the slavery of sin. Jesus
      rested to commemorate His victory over sin! Otherwise the
      delay makes no logical sense.)

    4. Read Colossians 1:16-22. When we combine, as Paul does
      here, Jesus as Creator and Redeemer, how does that help us
      deal with our human nature? (Two things. First, it creates
      an attitude of love and gratitude towards Jesus. Second,
      it shapes our attitude towards others. We were made by God
      and redeemed by God. Every other person is in the same
      boat. Why would we think unbridled self is appropriate?)

    5. Read 1 John 2:3-6. John says a very interesting thing
      here. He does not say “We know that we are saved if we
      obey God’s commands.” Instead, he says that we “know God”
      if we obey. Why does knowledge of God promote obedience?
      (The Ten Commandments improve our life. They are a how to
      book for better living. We run into trouble with the
      commandments, however, when we seek our unbridled self-interest. Knowing the lesson of the Sabbath, that Jesus
      made us and redeemed us by giving up Himself for us,
      teaches us restrained self-interest. It teaches us to want
      to look out for others.)

    6. Friend, will you ask the Holy Spirit to help you to know
      the Jesus who inspires us to a life of restrained self-interest? A life that rejoices in the law, including the
      Sabbath that reminds us of what God has done for us and of
      our proper attitude towards others?

  5. Next week: The Christian Life.